Late last month, FDA announced plans to launch a public survey to ask patients about their experiences with direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertisements.
In 2002, the FDA surveyed patients and physicians about their experiences with and attitudes toward DTC drug ads. Since then, there have been a number of changes that have affected the DTC landscape, including:
- Declines in print readership.
- Rise in online prescription drug promotion.
- Rise in self-imposed industry guidelines for DTC advertising.
FDA states that these changes “may have affected consumers’ exposure to different kinds of DTC advertising and its influences on their attitudes and behaviors.” Accordingly, the Agency fully intends to find out whether or not there has actually been a change in patients’ attitudes.
The FDA wants to conduct a public survey to discover whether or not the recent changes to the DTC landscape have affected the way consumers view DTC drug ads. As such, the FDA plans “to collect updated insights on consumer experiences with and attitudes toward DTC promotion of prescription drugs.” The Agency will build upon previous research by engaging a more diverse group of respondents. In addition, the FDA also stated that it plans to make the data nationally representative and also ask a wider range of questions about DTC promotion. The surveys will be distributed using both online and paper/mail formats to reach participants.
Survey participants will be asked questions regarding their knowledge of the Agency’s authority over prescription drug advertising, their exposure to DTC ads, their beliefs and attitudes toward DTC ads, and the influence of DTC ads on further information search and patient-physician interactions. “At the end of the survey, respondents will be randomly assigned to view one of two ads for fictional prescription drugs intended to treat high cholesterol.” After viewing the ad, participants will be asked various questions about the Agency’s authority regarding specific claims that are made within the ad. There will be a debriefing within the survey, informing participants that the drug being advertised was fake.
Furthermore, the Agency stated that the survey is available upon request, and that it will measure other potentially important characteristics, including:
- Insurance coverage
- Prescription drug use
The FDA has said that it will test for differences between the two versions of the survey (online vs. mail), and any discrepancies that exist will be accounted for in its analyses. The data that is collected will be analyzed and compared to the data that was received in response to the FDA’s survey that was conducted in 2002.
FDA is seeking feedback on the proposed survey, and has asked interested persons to submit electronic or written comments by April 29, 2016.